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Prepared by Elton M. Smith. Extension Specialist, The Ohio State University
Reprinted from Landscape Facts, Cooperative Service, 1971

Ajuga (4-12") (Bugleweed) - Used as an underplanting for trees and shrubs, in narrow strips among rocks, on terraces and in numerous other ways. This plant grows fairly rapid in shade, partial shade or in sunny areas where ample moisture is available.

Cotoneaster (1-3 ft.) (Cotoneaster) - Cotoneasters are woody shrubs for use in hot,dry situations. They are particularly decorative along the base of a wall as an under-planting to trees and shrubs, in large planters, as a connecting plant between trees and shrubs, and among rocks. Cotoneaster which are dwarf in habit, thrive in sun or partial shade.

Euonymus fortunei (2-12") (Wintercreeper) Used in sun or shade to cover slopes due to their deep-rooting habit. Euonymus is vigorous and therefore used in medium to large areas, under trees, or as a connecting plant in the foundation planting.

Hedera helix (4-8") (English Ivy) - One of the choicest of ground covers, growing best in shady locations. With its long trailing stems, English ivy is ideal for northern exposures on banks, slopes, or ground where an evergreen is desired .

Juniperus species (1-2 ft.) (Juniper) - In locations where erosion problems exist, on steep slopes, or in dry, poor, or sandy soils, a juniper may fit the need. This plant can also be used as a foreground for deciduous trees and shrubs, and as a connecting plant in the landscape.

Liriope spicata (8-18") (Lily Turf) - Grows well under trees and shrubs and can be used on slopes, as an edging plant or wherever there is shade. The green grass-like foliage of lily turf makes an excellent dense mass until well in the winter. The blue or white flowers are borne on a spike slightly taller than the leaves. Flowers occur in July and August and are followed by blue-black berries.

Pachysandra terminalis (6") (Pachysandra) - Can be used in practically any shaded area where it is difficult to maintain grass, such as along walks, steps, the side of the house, or under Norway maple or other trees where it's difficult to grow anything else. Interplanted among narrow or broadleaved evergreens, it gives a pleasing and finished effect.

Sedum (3-12") (Stonecrop) - In wall or rock gardens, among ledges where soil is sparse, or on certain slopes, sedums are often the answer. Low growing , abundant flowering, and requiring little care, sedums are often of great use, particularly where low maintenance is essential.

Vinca minor (6") (Myrtle, Periwinkle) - Myrtle is used under trees and shrubs and on banks in sun or shade. In shade, the leaves are glossier and richer. Myrtle will survive in sun if there is adequate organic matter in the soil and sufficient moisture. This plant is hardy, vigorous and fast growing, but not rampant such as honey-suckle.

SOIL PREPARATION - In the planting area, remove all sod and till the soil to at least 6 inches in depth. Heavy,clay type soils are often moist and should be drained before planting. Add organic material to heavy soils to improve aeration, water penetration and infiltration. Organic materials such as leaf mold, compost, well rotted manure, peat moss, sawdust, or similar materials should be incorporated in liberal amounts. The same materials can be mixed with light sandy soils to aid in retaining moisture.

To determine the pH and fertility levels of the planting site, have the soil tested prior to planting. The majority of plants thrive in a slightly acid to neutral soil. This means a pH range of 6.0 to 7.0 If the pH level needs to be adjusted, it should be done prior to planting. Soil test report recommendations will indicate the type and rate of chemicals to use to use to properly correct the pH. Commercial fertilizers such as 4-12-4, 5-10-10, etc. should be applied annually at the rate of 2 to 4 lbs. per 100 sq. ft., unless otherwise specified on the soil test report.

PLANTING - Most ground cover plants can be planted any time during the growing season. Spring and fall are the seasons when most planting is done: however, many ground covers are grown in containers and may be planted throughout the summer. Spacing between plants depends on the habit of the plant, its rate of growth, and the immediate effect desired. Plants such as English ivy, pachysandra, or myrtle are usually planted on one foot centers and cotoneaster, junipers, and euonymus 3 ft. apart. If an immediate effect is desired, closer spacing is necessary.

WATERING - Water plants at regular intervals until they are well-established and also during dry weather after establishment. Apply enough water each time to thoroughly wet the soil to the base of the root system. Use of lawn sprinklers or soaker hoses are usually more efficient than watering by hand with a hose.

WEEDING - Weed growth may be reduced by mulching the soil around the plants with materials such as peat moss , sawdust or wood chips, pine or hardwood bark, or others that may be available. Establishment of plants is usually faster as a result of mulching due to more even soil temperatures and a conservation of soil moisture. The use of sawdust, woodchips, or corn cobs as a mulch will require an additional application of nitrogen fertilizer at the rate mentioned previously. Pre-emergence herbicides are available to control weeds as the seeds germinate. Herbicides must be applied yearly until the ground fills in enough to shade out weeds.

PRUNING - At planting time, many ground covers may be pruned by one-half or more to encourage greater branch development and a more dense growth. Pruning causes buds to break from the base or along the main stem of the plant. Ivy or myrtle with long, trailing stems are examples of plants which may be cut back at planting. Subsequent pruning in later years is necessary only to remove unhealthy tissues, awkward or straggling branches, or to keep a plant from becoming too invasive. Some established plants such as ivy, pachysandra, and euonymus require occasional cutting back of the tops to keep the beds vigorous, neat, and more disease free.

Happy Gardening!

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